Creature Feature: California Condor

Despite the long road to recovery, the California condors are making a comeback thanks to targeted conservation efforts to save this iconic species.

Creature Feature: American Crow

The American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) might not look like much compared to its more menacing cousin of “Nevermore!” fame, the Common raven (Corvus corax), but behind those beady eyes lies a keen intelligence, a playful nature, and a particular knack for problem-solving. It is the largest crow species in North America and is highly adaptable, capable…

Creature Feature: Plainfin midshipman

Many males across the animal kingdom sing to attract a mate: birds are arguably the most famous, right behind adolescent human males; other notable examples include frogs,  humpback whales, and crickets. A fish likely didn’t even come to mind; yet, the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus), an intertidal fish that inhabits the San Francisco bay, among other…

Creature Feature: Tree-kangaroo

Nearly everyone knows about the kangaroos that inhabit the plains of Australia, hopping about and carrying infants, or ‘joeys’ in their pouches, but I would bet that not many know that there also exists an entire genus of forest-dwelling, tree-dependent kangaroos. These creatures are the arboreal counterparts to the terrestrial kangaroos we have come to…

Creature Feature: Wild turkey

In Northern California, turkeys are a common roadblock, daily hazard, and yearly Thanksgiving staple. However, people rarely take a second to stop and appreciate these animals’ interesting behavior. There are actually two species of turkey, Meleagris gallopavo that ranges from Mexico to Canada and Meleagris ocellata that lives exclusively in the Yucatan Peninsula1. This creature…

Creature Feature: Acorn Woodpecker

“It takes a village to raise a child”, goes the old proverb. The acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) seemingly takes this advice to heart.  This California native species fits well into the state’s ecological, and political, landscape.  These birds lead secret lives of free love and communal values, à la hippie communes of the 1960s and…

Creature Feature: Peacock Spider

Everyone knows the classic example of a flashy male peacock showing off its flamboyant feathers to attract a female counterpart. These traits are considered the epitome of the products of sexual selection1. However, few are aware of an equally impressive example, the Australian peacock spider. There are 48 described species of peacock spiders of the…

Creature Feature: Florida Apple Snail

Have you ever noticed mysterious clusters of smooth pea-shaped spheroids—often white- or pink-colored—stuck to the stems of aquatic plants or debris? More than likely, these are the eggs of an aquatic snail. If you ever find yourself paddling through the Florida everglades, the egg clumps you see may be laid by the beautiful Florida apple…

Creature Feature: Axolotl

Imagine a creature with translucent skin, a headdress made of feathery membranes that it uses to breathe underwater, elusive in its natural habitat of subterranean or cavern pools.  Sounds like science fiction, but fact is often stranger than fantasy. The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is a species of salamander originating in the cenotes of southern Mexico…